- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Preferably salad.

Posted by: Farinata ( L'inferno ) on December 30, 1999 at 12:52:36:

In Reply to: Food for thought posted by Frenchy on December 30, 1999 at 11:21:08:

: : : Yes....Except for the fact that Haiti is the most deforested country in the hemisphere, and you can't really blame that on either the US or the meat industry. Meat isn't that common in countries as poor as Haiti, and the deforestation began before US penetration of Latin America was really underway.

: : Haitian deforestation was caused in large part by people's need for fuel in the absence of petroleum.

: $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$Interesting. From this I wonder if you would conclude that the Exxons of the world can serve a useful purpose, ie; saving the land when that outweighs other considerations.

: Food for thought; could the inhabitants of Easter Island been saved IF they had access to oil?

Unlikely. The fact that they used up all the wood without actually trying/succeeding in regulating their consumption leads one to the inevitable conclusion that the ongoing process of supporting their society was more important to them than long-term survival; thus oil would just have been another form of wood for them to consume and deplete.

In the strict historical sense, the society might have lasted long enough to be colonized by the West and then achieve independence as the tiny Pacific nation of Alongwaiawai, but at the bottom level, they were locked into an unsustainable mode of consumption to support their society.

They couldn't realistically cut down on their consumption of wood without societal collapse; and long-term societal collapse from resource depletion was always further away from their minds than short-term societal collapse from not exploiting their natural resources.

The difference between sustainable and non-sustainable consumption is not unlike the difference between normal cells and cancerous ones; normal cells are pretty much self-limiting; they change comparatively slowly and the number of them also changes fairly slowly.
Cancerous cells are cells with the brakes off; they achieve massive growth in a very short time; but do so by consuming resources at the expense of normal cells; until the entire body cannot support the cancer and the host body dies; also killing the cancer cells.

: : Hurricane Floyd's devastation in Honduras was due in part to deforestation from cattle pasturing. Two distinct reasons, same awful consequences.

: $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$That's bad. But how in the world do you get people to do something that in the short term, from their perspective, is not to their advantage?

The only real way to do this is mass education. Sugary and fatty foods are great short-term comfort food; but as a long-term staple diet they are a disaster.

Either you talk down to people; give them the nutritional Ten Commandments ("Thou shalt not eat fatty foods!", etc...) or you try and persuade them to educate themselves about nutrition and use their common sense to form a healthy diet.

I don't personally believe in the top-down approach; it generates resentment in the minds of those who feel themselves to be serfs in the order of things; defying 'the establishment' becomes a valid goal in itself, as the serf doesn't see themselves as a part of it; they are alienated.

Of course, if you give people a free choice, some people will still choose to pig out on unhealthy food and ignore the consequences; but they have been warned; they have been educated in the dangers and their act is one of free will (if also of stupidity).

If you try to dictate to people, you create resistance; if you make the evidence freely available to people and do your best to educate them (and to inspire them to educate themselves), they may not change their behaviour, but they cannot say that they did not have the opportunity to learn.

In this case, I cannot be certain that an informed and educated populace would choose a mode of consumption that is sustainable in the long-term; life in the First World is very comfortable for the privileged (of which I am a member) and luxury is highly addictive.

Being one of the privileged, with a degree and all, I want others to have the opportunities I had; which is why I believe in the best society being the most equal one; I don't believe that we should go back to the Stone Age in a half-cocked effort to live in a 'natural state'; technology can be useful, even if it isn't a universal panacea. But we need to redefine modes of consumption drastically if we want to use technology on anything like a sustainable basis.

The first step to getting people to favour the long-term and short-term equally is for them to recognize and admit that there are long-term consequences involved; this is difficult enough; especially when there are powerful groups who are financially interested in things staying the way they are.

If people have at least got the information to make an informed choice, rather than a blind one, that's something. 'Jam today' is always going to be more attractive than 'more jam tomorrow' to the uninformed; it's only by education as to the benefits of 'more jam tomorrow' that you can get people to choose it.

Spending is more fun than saving, as any kid will tell you; but limiting your short-term personal consumption in the name of greater returns is the more profitable strategy in the long term.

That's the fundamental basis of ecology; by limiting your personal consumption now, you make the end return for everyone greater.


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